Monday, July 20, 2009

Seeing green...

I just conducted a Google search for the word Green. Only one result on the front page was not directly related to environment, a Wikipedia article on the color green. Of course, that's not surprising, but that only makes me wonder why it's not surprising that green is so inextricably connected with protecting the environment.

Is green the color of the environment? Trees are green. Most plants are green. Fungus is green. Amphibians and lizards are green, but that's about it. Aside from amphibians and lizards, most animals are not. Even as you view earth from space, green isn't the color of the earth. Blue is.

Is the environmental movement biased toward saving plants? Not by my recollection and not in the evidence either. In fact, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more animals than plants are listed as endangered or threatened in the United States (1210 versus 749). So, why green?

Is green the natural state of the earth? In forests, thats mostly true, but again, that's the trees and shrubbery talking. Nature is full of all sorts of colors: brilliant reds, blues, oranges, and more earthy tones. Even trees are collages of different colors. Their bark is brown, while some have brightly-colored flowers. If I had to pick a color to represent nature or the earth, I'd probably pick brown. Or, to represent the whole spectrum of colors we see in nature, why not pick a rainbow?

There's no doubt that this is a silly question, but there's a more serious undertone to this discussion. If we didn't collectively question why the environmental movement picked their color, what else about the environment are we letting slip by us? More seriously, are we being brainwashed into thinking that everything green is automatically good? What does it take to be labeled green? What does it mean to be good for the environment?

Moreover, if there's a benefit from labeling something as environmentally friendly, don't we expect companies to game the system? If being green earns you more green, companies might be willing to stretch the truth or just do the bare minimum to meet green standards. And, in that world, there's no guarantee that you're helping the environment by demanding green products.

Protecting the environment is important; with imporant issues, it's best to calculate the consequences with a cool head. Are you making a decision that will help the environment or are you looking at the world through green-colored glasses? That's just something to think about the next time you jump at the opportunity to buy something that's labeled green.

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